U.S. Senator and House of Representative Claude Pepper was an exemplary public servant who was solely committed to unifying healthcare opportunities for all Americans regardless of socioeconomic status or ethnicity. Throughout his career, he became a fierce advocator of health care reform in strengthening social security funding and Medicare/Medicaid benefits. Thus, creating provisions for at risk populations to receive equal medical coverage.
Claude Pepper maintained a rare awareness of the hardship that many Americans faced in obtaining efficient healthcare. Pepper used his voice to spark change in the U.S. healthcare system to dispense sufficient resources that would generate affordable care and enhance medical treatment. For years, Pepper worked tirelessly to lobby legislators to develop strategies that would allocate funding to provide public health services that would improve health outcomes. Because of his concern for medical care, Pepper established thirteen National Institutes of Health to support innovative endeavors in treating or curing chronic diseases through research. In 1937, during his term as Senator, he co-authored legislation establishing the National Cancer Institute to support cancer research. Subsequently, he helped to establish ten research centers for the cure and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Later in the 1940s, he sponsored legislation to create a national health insurance program to enforce equal healthcare opportunities. Pepper’s legislative efforts have served as a compass for many who are interested in improving health care policies and those who seek to learn the process of how legislators present bills to be passed into law to improve our society.
The Claude Pepper Library & Museum offers insight into the establishment of the National Institutes of Health on behalf of Senator Pepper’s instrumental legislative work on varied Health Institutes. These materials are available for researchers and can be discovered online through the collection’s finding aid.
Former President Jimmy Carter and the late Congressman Claude Pepper will always be remembered for combating the complexities of our society by sponsoring legislation that legitimized sufficient welfare for all humanity. President Carter served as the 39th president of the U.S. from 1977-1981. Carter also served as a member of the Democratic Party and as Governor of Georgia prior to his election as president. Claude Pepper was a Democratic politician who was elected into the Florida House of Representatives in 1928 and served from 1929-1930. Pepper represented Florida in the U.S. Senate from 1936-1950 and in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1962 until his death on May 30, 1989.
During that time period, Carter and Pepper shared a loyal friendship and comradery in government which proved to be a conscientious commitment to securing the rights and liberties of all citizens. The trailblazers advocated for health and education reform, overturning segregation and providing equal housing and job opportunities for all races including women, the handicapped and the aging population. The two also helped pass the Mandatory Retirement Bill in 1986 which abolished age discrimination in the workplace. Throughout their exemplary careers, they both remained steadfast during moments of opposition by the Republicans and their own Democratic party. Despite opposition, both leaders worked towards eradicating ignorance and delving into public policies by levying Republicans and Democrats to form an alliance, conducive to creating good government.
Amazingly, Carter and Pepper shared similar backgrounds. Both men were raised around African Americans who were loyal friends that worked beside their families each day. As young men they both witnessed families living in poverty stricken areas who lacked adequate healthcare, food or housing. They were raised in Christian homes in rural areas in the south where electricity and indoor plumbing were uncommon. Carter was born on October 1, 1924 in Plains, Georgia on a peanut farm owned by his father, James Earl Carter Sr. Claude Pepper was born on September 8, 1900 in Chambers County, Alabama in a poverty stricken rural area. Pepper’s parents (Joseph and Lena Pepper) were sharecroppers. Even though both men grew up in remote areas, their families embraced the importance of receiving an education which equipped them for their aspirations in life. The pure nature of humble beginnings bestowed a notion of morality and validity in leadership among these courageous men. Thus, allowing Pepper and Carter to vigorously use their platform in government to harness the needs of others by serving as a surrogate to reduce impoverishment in our society.
Today the Claude Pepper Library & Museum at Florida State University holds the Claude Pepper Papers which contains correspondence that exhibits Carter and Pepper support and respect for each other. These materials are available for researchers and may be discovered through the collection’s finding aid. The library also displays several photographs of the two leaders attending various events and solidifying legislation together not only in the Claude Pepper museum but through DigiNole, the FSU Digital Repository.
We invite all researchers from various backgrounds to come in and take a glimpse back into time on how several politicians have changed the scope of government to maximize various opportunities that we are all benefiting from today. We hope that our collection will not only educate you but inspire each of you to be great leaders of merit academically and professionally.
“…I could hardly believe Japan had actually attacked us first in such a remote place, yet the whole country has been first stunned then calmly resolved that now we are going to accept the challenge and get it over. They bombed barracks killing 350 soldiers [the total casualties were 2,403 killed & 1,178 wounded] and some ships apparently from an airplane carrier…The President and cabinet met at 8:00PM. Congressional leaders in later. All but Senator Nye of isolationists’ crowd have come around now. I gave out statement, not a question of who has been right but of unity henceforth. Joint session at 12:30PM tomorrow. Well here it is – war – war – God strengthen us all.”
When bombs fell on Pearl Harbor in the early morning of December 7, 1941, the picture of America, as has often happened, was changed. Having only begun to shake off the burden that was the Great Depression, the country was largely isolationist and determined to right its own ship, letting the world without handle its second great conflagration within twenty years. As was reflected in the above excerpt from Senator Pepper’s diary however, the country as a whole came to a realization very quickly: the war is upon us and we must fight. The outpouring of support and the subsequent rush to military recruitment offices by millions of Americans was unprecedented, with the nation rapidly mobilizing to prepare for the next 4 years of global conflict. Not every action taken in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor was warranted however, as Japanese American citizens of the United States, were taken from their homes and interned in camps throughout the American Midwest and Arkansas.
As we remember the 75th anniversary of the Attack on Pearl Harbor, let us reflect on the lives lost that day and in the years that would follow, let us contemplate the day’s significance in the history of not only our country, but the world, and finally let us remind ourselves of ways in which we can honor the sacrifices of those who came before.
Spring is in the air, the sun is out and that usually means it’s time to find a body of water to sit by and enjoy since we live in Florida. One of those places you could visit this spring and summer (or anytime really) would be the Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park.
This Florida State Park is home to plenty of wildlife including alligators, deer, birds, and of course the majestic manatee. There are guided water boat tours and a spring for swimming where the water is always a nice, cool temperature. Find more information about this beautiful state park here.
The park is named Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park, you might wonder, “who is Edward Ball?” According to the Florida State Parks website, he was a “financier” who “purchased the property in 1934 and developed it as an attraction focusing on wildlife preservation and the surrounding habitat.” The Lodge at Wakulla Springs was built in 1937 as a guest house on the 4,000 acres Ball purchased the same year. In the 1960s’ Ball donated land to Florida State University for a marine lab which is now the Edward Ball Marine Laboratory.
Now you could be wondering, “what does any of this have to do with Claude Pepper?” The former Florida Senator and Congressman Claude Pepper and Edward Ball were like the Cady Heron and Regina George of their time, publicly civil with one another, but deplored each other in reality. Pepper writes about his relationship with Ball in his autobiography, Pepper: Eyewitness To A Century.
Ed Ball was a financier who amassed a great amount of wealth and power due to his family connections. His brother-in-law Alfred I. duPont was one of the wealthiest men in the country in the early 20th century. After duPont’s death in 1935, Ball took over control of the duPont Trust and emerged as a wealthy political dominant force in Florida in the 1940s’. Ball never ran for political office himself, but backed and tried to defeat political candidates running for office. One of those candidates he tried to defeat in the 1944 Florida Senate election and eventually succeeded in defeating was Claude Pepper in the now infamous 1950 Florida Senate election.
The history of these two men is long and extensive and I encourage any reader of this blog entry to read more on the subject. A great place to start would be Tracy E. Danese’s book, Claude Pepper & Ed Ball: Politics, Purpose, and Power published by the University Press of Florida in 2000. These two men played a great role in shaping the political history and future of Florida. I hope this blog gave you a brief summary of their relationship and intrigued you to read more about it.
From his first day as a United States Senator on January 1st 1937 to within four years of his death in office as a United States Representative on May 30, 1989, Claude Pepper kept a detailed personal account of his life as a public servant. During the summer of 2015, the staff of the FSU Digital Library Center undertook the project of scanning each of Senator Pepper’s 48 diaries and uploading them, as well as their accompanying enclosures and transcripts, into the FSU Digital Library hosted in Islandora. Now, researchers worldwide have the ability to search the diaries online and have access to over forty years of commentary on some of the most significant events of the 20th Century.
A perusal of the Senator’s diaries allows researchers to step inside the mind of one of America’s most active politicians and glimpse firsthand his thoughts on topics ranging from the Lend Lease Bill, the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Medicare and Medicaid, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Social Security reform in the 1980s and hundreds of interactions between Pepper and the many influential figures of his day from Eleanor Roosevelt to Tip O’Neil. In addition to this excellent electronic resource, the Pepper Diaries are also available to be viewed in person at the Claude Pepper Library, which opens its doors Monday through Friday from 9:00am to 5:00pm.
Welcome back students, staff and faculty to another Fall Semester here at FSU! Here on campus and around town, there are some really great locations and spaces for learning and engaging with the past. One space in particular is the Claude Pepper Library at FSU. The Claude Pepper Library was established in 1985 as the official repository for the Claude Pepper Papers, a unique and multi-faceted collection of manuscripts, photographs, audio/video recordings, and memorabilia documenting the life and career of U.S. Senator and Congressman Claude Denson Pepper (1900-1989).
Our staff currently consists of Claude Pepper archivist Robert Rubero and archives assistant Mallary Rawls. The mission of the Claude Pepper Library is to support and advance research, teaching and engagement by acquiring, preserving and providing access to collections dealing with the political history of the State of Florida on national and local levels for use by students, faculty and researchers worldwide. The focus of our current major project is the digitization of the Claude Pepper diaries, which chronicle over 40 years of political involvement through the late Senator’s eyes.
At the Pepper Library we also enjoy posting to our Facebook page and enjoy updating our followers through our “Today in Pepper History” posts. More importantly, we offer patrons a firsthand experience with primary source materials from a variety of creators, all giving a glimpse into the political landscape in the State of Florida with a range of over 75 years. The Pepper Library has regularly hosted archives training sessions, class tours and guest lecturers and plans to continue these events in the future. There is also a museum component located in the Pepper Center which chronicles the life of Senator Pepper and is based on his book, Eyewitness to a Century.
Stay tuned for future blog posts as we bring you more great examples from our collections here at the Pepper Library!
Last week, on July 2nd, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 celebrated its 51st anniversary. Originally pioneered by President John F. Kennedy and called for just a year earlier on June 11, 1963 in his Civil Rights Address, delivered from the oval office. In the wake of President Kennedy’s assassination in late November of 1963, his successor, Lyndon Johnson put his full support behind the passing of the act as not only the needed legislation that it was but also as a eulogy to President Kennedy. President Johnson was aware that the Civil Rights Bill would face resistance in the solidly Democratic South, however, there was one Democrat in the State of Florida with a long history of supporting progressive legislation; Claude Pepper.
Early in his career while a member of the Florida House of Representatives in 1929, Pepper alone, voted against a Florida State Legislature resolution condemning First Lady Lou Henry Hoover’s White House invitation for tea to Mrs. DePriest, the wife of the first black congressman since Reconstruction. 35 years later, Claude would again take a stand that many in his state deemed unpopular, and given that his constituency was well aware of his record, the old statesman was inundated with mail correspondence urging him both toward and away from a vote for the Civil Rights Bill.
These letter excerpts, both for and against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, are great examples of the political currents that flowed through the country during the 1960’s as the initial large scale push for Civil Rights in the United States was reaching its height. The correspondence below is dated mostly from February of 1964, when the voting for the act took place.
A firm believer in voting with one’s conscience, Pepper knew that the choice was clear. When the final votes were tallied, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 received zero votes from members from the Deep South and very few from those states on the periphery. The only vote in favor of final passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 from Florida was by Claude Pepper. The following year saw the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and ‘yes’ votes from six of Pepper’s colleagues who had voted ‘no’ the previous year. Pepper realized the significance of extending civil rights to all Americans, and consistently supported such legislation throughout his years in the U.S. House of Representatives.
For researchers interested in taking a closer look at Claude Pepper and his record on Civil Rights in the United States, please visit the Claude Pepper Library and Museum, Monday through Friday 9AM-5PM.
67 years ago today, Senator Claude Pepper and many of his colleagues in the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate along with members of the press and other dignitaries, made their way to Warm Springs, Georgia for the dedication of the Little White House on June 25, 1947.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt built the Little White House in 1932 while still serving as governor of New York, prior to being inaugurated as president in 1933. As a young man, FDR first came to Warm Springs in 1924 hoping to find a cure for the infantile paralysis (later known as polio) that had struck him in 1921. Swimming in the 88-degree, buoyant spring waters did not bring him the miracle cure he sought, but it did bring improvement. During FDR’s presidency and the Great Depression, he developed many New Deal Programs based upon his experiences in this small town. A steadfast proponent of the New Deal and other FDR policies such as the Wage and Hour Bill, Social Security and Lend Lease, Claude was devoted to his commander in chief. When the opportunity to attend the dedication of the now historic site in Warm Springs presented itself, Pepper did not miss the chance. The trip allowed for the attendees to experience a part of the Presidents life that was not widely known to the American public. In an excerpt from a letter to his family written on June 26th 1947, the Senator from Florida wrote of the impactful experience:
“This was one of the most wonderful trips I have ever made. I have never been, you know, to Warm Springs before. About 160 or 170 people went down on a special train. Upon arrival at Warm Springs we were driven to the Warm Springs Foundation area and shown through the Little White House, where the President died, and about the grounds.
Several of us made a trip through many of the wards seeing the patients, talking to the doctors and nurses and seeing the braces which they manufacture for the use of the patients. We also saw the new pool now in the medical area and a few of us went down to see the original pool where the President first began to bathe and where he himself continued to swim until the end.
I wish every citizen could go through this Foundation, not only for the inspiration they would derive from the presence of President Roosevelt that is still felt there but to see the most cheerful, bravest group of people they can see anywhere.”
To learn more about Senator Pepper’s time in office or about our related political collections, please visit the Claude Pepper Library website at: https://www.lib.fsu.edu/pepper-library or come in and visit us from Monday through Friday 9am-5pm!
Last Friday, the Claude Pepper Library at Florida State University celebrated its thirtieth anniversary. Since opening its doors on May 15, 1985 the Pepper Library has provided students and researchers with a place to study and learn, but more importantly, it has provided access to one of the more expansive political collections of the 20th century. In our previous blog post written by Pepper staff member Maria Meade we learned that the original location of the Pepper Library, Dodd Hall, was chosen by both Claude and his wife Mildred for its architectural beauty and the fact that Mildred spent much time there while enrolled as a student at the FSCW when Dodd Hall was the main library on campus having preceded Strozier Library by some 33 years.
Interestingly however, the first proposed location for the Pepper Library was indeed the top floor of the Strozier Library Annex. According to the initial proposal for the library, dated June 17, 1977, “material will be housed on a permanent basis in the Strozier Library…A portion of the top floor of the addition [annex] is being planned to house the Pepper Collection. This space will provide storage, study space for students, an office for an archivist as well as space for a replica of the office or offices of Senator Pepper to be arranged to plans formulated with his assistance.” Sadly, Mildred would pass away from esophageal cancer in 1979, and it was during the two year period before her death that the location of the library would be changed from Strozier to Dodd Hall, further honoring Mildred’s time at the university. Thanks to a $475,000 appropriation by the Florida Legislature, Dodd Hall was renovated for its use as the site of the library and museum. The renovations included the restoration of Dodd Hall’s vaulted ceilings, spaces for the Senators recreated House and Senate offices as well as exhibit and research space.
Dodd Hall would be the home of the Pepper Library for the next eleven years before the collection was moved into storage once more while ground was broken on the site of the new Claude Pepper Center on Call Street. Tune in next week for our post which will give a little history on our current home!
Thirty years ago, on May 15, 1985, hundreds gathered in Ruby Diamond Auditorium at Florida State University for the dedication of the Mildred and Claude Pepper Library and to watch Representative Claude Pepper receive one of his highest honors from FSU. During his career, Claude Pepper forged connections with several Florida colleges and universities. However it was a personal connection to Florida State College for Women (FSCW), and later FSU, which led him to entrust the papers and artifacts from his years of public service to the university. In recognition of his work and long relationship with the school, Florida State President Bernard Sliger conferred an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters on Claude Pepper at the ceremony.
Claude and his wife, Mildred, were a regular presence on the Florida State campus although he had never been in the classroom as a student. Over the decades, they frequently visited the university and attended sporting events and homecomings. Mildred Pepper endowed a scholarship for students in the fashion school. Claude Pepper spoke on campus many times – including giving a commencement address in 1977.
Claude Pepper received the Gold Key in 1938 when he spoke at the FSCW and was later made an honorary alumnus of Florida State University. His 84th birthday party was a gala fundraiser emceed by Bob Hope that raised funds for the creation of the Mildred and Claude Pepper Eminent Scholars Chair of Social Gerontology as part of the Pepper’s legacy at Florida State.
Claude Pepper became connected to Florida State University through his time in Tallahassee and relationship with Mildred, a former student of Florida State College for Women. In the months before her death, Mildred Pepper returned to FSU with Claude to determine the location for the Pepper Library and museum. They decided on Dodd Hall- it had been the library Mildred had studied in as an undergraduate.
In his remarks upon receiving his honorary degree, Pepper acknowledged the credit owed to Mildred as his “absent partner.” He believed Florida State University was a fitting place for his papers and museum because her spirit and memories would always be part of the campus. The permanent home for his work would be a monument to all that he and Mildred had achieved together.
Florida State University President Bernard Sliger invited preeminent politicians to speak about Claude Pepper’s accomplishments before awarding the honorary doctorate. Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill, Florida Governor Bob Graham, and Representative Don Fuqua were invited not just because of the seats they held, but because they were friends and close allies to Claude. Governor Graham spoke for the people of Florida about Pepper’s decades of work both for the state and representing Floridians’ interests on the national stage. Fuqua, the representative for Florida’s 2nd district including Tallahassee, welcomed and introduced the members of Congress that had flown down from the Capitol D.C. for the celebration of Claude Pepper.
Tip O’Neill spoke, at the invitation of President Sliger, about Pepper’s tenacious work on behalf of all Americans to protect policies including the New Deal, civil rights, Social Security, and Medicare. They had worked closely on an agenda since O’Neill’s selection as Speak of the House in 1977. In that time, the Speaker had placed Pepper on the bipartisan commission on Social Security and gave him the chairmanship of the powerful House Rules Committee.
Correspondence and other documents from Claude and Mildred Pepper’s work with Florida State University as well as videos of the ceremony can be found in the Claude Pepper Papers held at the Pepper Library. For more than two hundred additional images from the Pepper’s visits to FSU and the dedication of the Pepper Library, please visit the Florida State University Digital Library.